When drive and direction combine
Nell Sullivan joined Ag EDGE when she was just 24 years old. “I had just returned home to work on the farm full-time, so it was a natural step to join Ag EDGE and take a seat at the board table with Dad and Mum. It was a tricky time really as the farm was in transition and we were waiting for a buyer, but it was invaluable to understand the various financial aspects of the business, especially around juggling short-term investment priorities”, Nell said.
Since that time, with the family farm sold, Nell and her husband Lachlan have established their own merino sheep enterprise on 3 700 acres near Molong in Central West NSW. “Ag EDGE has been really useful as we start out on our own. The conversations we have had drilling into the detail about business structures, financing options and enterprise choice have laid a solid foundation for our business. We are especially focussed on developing systems and processes that will make it easier to measure and monitor the performance of our business into the future”, Nell said today.
Ag EDGE, a small not-for-profit group, is comprised of a number of unofficial ‘boards of directors’ which provide a peer review function, delivering practical and professional input into each board member’s business. Each ‘board member’ is actively involved in agriculture in some way and bring their business and personal experience to the table.
Ag EDGE meet face-to-face up to four times each year and maintain regular contact in between meetings. Face-to-face meetings are professionally facilitated and each meeting is used to review each member’s business performance or progress towards their goals.
“I think one of best things about Ag EDGE is that it captures us for two days every three months and makes us sit down, focus on the business and sometimes have some pretty hard conversations. We are so busy on the farm and with our off-farm roles that it is easy for things to fall through the gaps. For us, those quarterly meetings put the brakes on temporarily, allow us to reassess where we are and then charge off again. It certainly keeps us on track, ensures we don’t stray too far from the plan, and gives us time to address any small hiccups in the business”.
Nell believes that, “another huge benefit of Ag EDGE is the confidence it gives us as young farmers growing our own business. We are sure that we have the skills and the drive to build a good business. To have those extra sets of experienced eyes reviewing our plans, and telling us that we are on the right track, it makes it that little bit easier, especially as we are about to take on some pretty large debt. To have those supportive and knowledgeable farmers and business people, telling us to ‘go for it’ makes us feel more confident about the next big steps”.
“I know my past experience has made me a bit biased, but for any other young farmers out there, I say ‘join up and jump in’. If you want to start to build a good business or feel like your business is heading in the direction you want it to, then I recommend you invest the time to make it a reality. Both Lach and I are aiming high and we want to utilise all our physical and knowledge assets in the best way possible. We know Ag EDGE will push us to be the best we can be and to make sure the engine, our business, works as efficiently as possible”.